"The Tyrant Is a Prisoner"
By Steven Ehrenberg

President George W. Bush speaks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair during a phone call in the Oval Office on Sunday morning, December 14, 2003. (Courtesy of the White House, Photo by Eric Draper)

Monday, December 15—The capture began with a tip by a member of Saddam Hussein's tribal clan. Less than 11 hours later, 600 U.S. troops, accompanied by tanks and helicopters, surrounded two farmhouses. In one of the farmhouses, beneath a trap door covered with a rug and rubble, they found their man. The former President of Iraq was taken into U.S. custody on Saturday, December 13.

"He was just caught like a rat," said Major General Raymond T. Odierno.

Saddam Hussein had been hiding from U.S. troops for months, scurrying between 20 and 30 hideouts. Once U.S. troops received the tip, they had to act fast: Hussein moved as often as every three to four hours.

As dusk settled over Iraq on Saturday, Operation Red Dawn began. American troops crept toward the huts in the village of Ad Dawr, nine miles from Tikrit, Hussein's hometown.

They raided the farmhouses but didn't find Hussein. Colonel James Hickey ordered his troops to block off nearly two square miles, and the search began.

They found him standing in an underground shaft wide enough for one man. He carried a knife, a gun, and hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars in a suitcase. But he gave up without a fight. Troops described him as "bewildered" and "disoriented."

The farmhouse had a bedroom and kitchen. An orange and white taxi was parked next to a sheep pen, and several boats were docked nearby in the Tigris River. Commanders believe that the boats may have carried supplies to the ex-dictator.

"Ladies and gentlemen: We got him. The tyrant is a prisoner," said L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, on Sunday. "This is a great day in Iraq's history."

This diagram displays the "spider hole" where U.S. forces found Saddam Hussein on December 13, 2003. In the side view above, the oblong space at the bottom was just big enough for a grown person to lie down. (Courtesy of the Department of Defense)